Settlement of Civil Cases

Often as late as in the courtroom on the day of trial, parties may decide to resolve their case for many reasons. For instance, the docket, the list of cases to be heard that day, is so long that the Court may not hear the case that day or the case may begin but not conclude that day, resulting in the parties having to return on another day either to begin the trial or to conclude it. Witnesses who have been ordered to appear on the first trial date may not either want to or cannot return on another date because they are unavailable for many reasons, including because of a wage loss incurred by missing another day from employment to appear in court, or because of a scheduled vacation which often involves non-refundable airfare and/or vacation “package plans”. Finding an agreeable new date when the parties, the witnesses, and the Court are all available may be very difficult. An additional reason for deciding to settle the case is that often the client is paying his/her attorney by the hour and the client will have to pay additional attorney’s fees to have his legal counsel return to court on another day. Also, justice delayed may result in justice denied either in whole or in part.

One remedy to aid in avoiding the problems as described above would be to have the attorney request that the new trial date be “specially set”. That means the case would be the only case scheduled to be heard by the Court on a particular day and time. It may still, however, be very difficult to coordinate all calendars and get everyone in the same place at the same time without having to wait weeks for a date of the Court’s calendar that makes that possible.

So let’s assume that the parties in a case involving the return of an engagement ring want to settle because of the reasons explained above. It is decided that the defendant will return the engagement ring but does not wish to have a judgment against her because it may affect her credit even though the judgment will be shown on the court records that the engagement ring was returned. I have handled many engagement ring cases and am concerned that the defendant may have altered the returned ring in some way. To the naked eye, can the plaintiff be certain that the expensive diamonds in the engagement ring have not been removed and replace by cubic zirconia? In the past, we arrange for the diamond engagement ring to be returned at the jewelry store where the ring was purchased, along with the written description of the ring or its appraisal. Another approach is to have a jewelry expert on call on the date of trial to say that the ring that was voluntarily returned or returned by court order is, in fact, the valuable engagement ring that was given by the plaintiff to the defendant.

In this case involving the voluntary return of an engagement ring, the defendant did not want to have a judgment even though she was returning the ring. Under Maryland Rule 3-506(b), called “dismissal upon stipulated terms”, we were able to settle the case. Before the judgment on the date of trial, the terms were that the defendant gave me the diamond engagement ring and the parties stipulated to immediately drive to the jewelry store to be certain that the engagement ring that was returned was the actual engagement ring that was given in contemplation of marriage. The jewelry store said the ring which I presented for examination was, in fact, the genuine diamond ring given to the defendant by the plaintiff.

Fred Antenberg is an experienced litigation attorney in Howard County and surrounding counties in Central Maryland who has successfully settled cases for his clients. Call Fred today for a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION at 410-730-4404.